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Keywords

African Americans; African Americans – Medical care; Discrimination; Discrimination in medical care; Focus groups; Health disparities; Race discrimination; Social status – Health aspects

Abstract

African Americans suffer a disproportionate burden of death and illness from a number of different chronic diseases. Inequalities in health care practices and poor patient and provider communication between African American patients and health care professionals contribute to these disparities. We describe findings from focus groups with 79 urban African Americans in which the participants discussed their interactions with the healthcare system as well as beliefs and opinions of the healthcare system and professionals. Analysis revealed five major themes: (1) historical and contextual foundations; (2) interpersonal experiences with physicians and other health care workers; (3) discrimination; (4) trust, opinions and attitudes, and (5) improving health care experiences. These findings indicate that perceptions of discrimination and racism were prevalent among African Americans in this study, and that the expectation of a negative interaction is a barrier to seeking care. Authors discuss prevention and public health implications of these findings and make recommendations for health care practitioners.